Congress to go by voice of people

Nursing its wounds after the electoral loss in four states, the Congress on Friday said it would abandon the practice of forcing candidates from the Centre and listen to the “voice of the people”.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said the list of party candidates for the Lok Sabha elections would be announced “very soon for the first time”.

This is yet another departure from the past when candidates have been announced as late as the last date of filing of nominations.

Gandhi chaired a meeting of party leaders who have been tasked to examine the suggestions on probable candidates received from the party’s state units. The party had dispatched observers across 543 Lok Sabha constituencies to interact with local leaders and draw up a list of probable candidates after examining several parameters such as popularity and chances of winning.

A similar exercise was conducted by the election committees at the state level who were asked to get feedback from the block presidents and district presidents.

Congress sources said three rounds of consultations with the state election committees have been held and the screening committees, constituted on Thursday night, would prepare a shortlist of candidates. The party hopes to announce the first list of about 200 candidates by the end of this month.

Ticket distribution exercise in the Congress has always seen a clash among rival factions forcing the party to announce candidates, at times on the last day of filing of nomination papers. Party leaders attribute the debacle in Madhya Pradesh to the delay in announcing the candidates.

Meetings of the screening committees to select candidates will begin soon after the January 17 AICC meeting in Delhi, where the party could name Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate.

Lok Sabha elections are likely to be held in April-May and the decision will give at least three months time to the candidates to prepare for the elections.

Union Minister Vayalar Ravi has been entrusted the job to select Lok Sabha candidates for Karnataka, while Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge has been assigned key states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

Road Transport Minister Oscar Fernandes has been made chairman of the screening committee for Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

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